Brussels, 15 March 2007
Three new Community Reference Laboratories
will ensure reliable testing of food and animal feed
The safety and quality of food and feed are a
growing public concern and research plays an increasingly important role in this
sector to ensure consumers' confidence. The European Commission is setting up
three laboratories to support national authorities in their efforts to keep food
and feed free from dangerous substances. The three Community Reference
Laboratories for heavy metals, mycotoxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
(PAHs) will be opened by European Commissioner for Health, Markos Kyprianou at
the Commission's Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements in Geel,
Belgium on 16 March. Heavy metals, mycotoxins and PAHs are all substances with
potentially harmful health effects that can be found in food. These laboratories
will validate testing methods, develop reference materials and measurements and
provide training and other tools to national laboratories so that food and
animal feed can be kept safe across the EU.
EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said: "A strong pan-European network
of Laboratories is essential to create a more efficient regulatory framework and
to boost public confidence in the safety of our food and feed products. So I
welcome the inauguration of these new Community Reference Laboratories, which
will provide essential scientific data and contribute to informed and
responsible policy decisions"
Three Community Reference Laboratories (CRLs) will be opened at the Institute
for Reference Materials and Measurements:
- Heavy metals: these substances are present in all foodstuffs. Some
are important for our nutrition, but others, such as lead, cadmium and mercury,
have no nutritional value and can indeed in some cases contribute to serious
illnesses such as cancer, or damage the central nervous system.
- Mycotoxins: these are substances produced by fungi growing on food
and animal feed. Estimates show that up to 20% of food products may contain
mycotoxins, which can cause anything from mild to serious illness.
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs): these are compounds which
can enter food during production processes. Some of the compounds can cause
cancer or DNA mutation.
Through the Community and National Reference
Laboratories, a system will be in place that will effectively control that the
presence of these substances is kept below the limits established in legislation
as being safe.
These three CRLs ensure that the testing for these substances is performed to
a reliable standard across the food chain. To do so, they will provide
information, training and support to the European Commission, national
enforcement agencies and the food and feed industry regarding the presence of
the three substances.
They will validate methods for the detection and monitoring of the identified
food hazards and organise comparative tests so that the national laboratories
can benchmark their capabilities. The CRLs therefore contribute to European
consumers' confidence in the overall system put in place to guarantee the safety
of their food.
CRLs are created under EU legislation to make the EU regulatory system more
efficient with the same high level of laboratory performance across the EU.